Syrian youths Ammar/Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

Higher Education for Syria

Providing education to Syria's school children has rightly received a great deal of attention recently. What risks being overlooked is the need to provide opportunities for university-age refugees to pursue their studies.

BUDAPEST – Educating refugee children was high on the agenda when donors met in London in early February for a record-setting day of fundraising for Syria. As Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai explained, “Losing this generation is a cost the world cannot [afford].”

It is important to remember, however, that Syria’s school-age children are not the only generation at risk of being lost. The Institute of International Education (IIE) estimates that as many as 450,000 of the more than four million Syrian refugees in the Middle East and North Africa are 18-22 years old, and that approximately 100,000 of them are qualified for university. They, too, are in desperate need of opportunities to further their studies.

Peace will eventually come to Syria. It is impossible to know exactly when, but all wars end. One day, the guns will fall silent, and the country will begin to rebuild. As we have learned from the dramatic failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, reconstruction will be successful only if Syrians – not outsiders – lead the effort. With millions of Syrians seeking refuge abroad, the country will face a desperate shortfall of skilled, educated workers just when it needs them most.

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